Ugandan health workers hit by Ebola, causing panic

Health workers are among the dead in an Ebola outbreak in Uganda, spreading panic among those needed to help. Doctors and nurses did not at first know what they were facing, and failed to protect themselves, according to a lawmaker representing the western area at the center of the outbreak. Experts say the Ebola subtype that sparked the outbreak is new, and the classic Ebola symptoms were not always present, slowing diagnosis. "We are facing a crisis in health care here," said Jane Alisemera, the lawmaker representing Bundibugyo, the district 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Kampala where the outbreak has claimed at least 18 lives. "These health workers have already lost three of their colleagues and six more have contracted the disease. They are scared and morale is low." "There is a very big shortage of nursing staff now at the hospital," she said. According to the Ministry of Health's latest figures, Bundibugyo has 75 suspected cases of Ebola. The outbreak began Aug. 20 but the disease was not confirmed as Ebola until Nov. 29. "The staff at the hospital didn't know they were dealing with a highly contagious outbreak so they took inadequate precautions," Alisemera said. The hospital had no protective clothing at the time of the outbreak, she said, though aid agencies have since donated supplies.